Child care for people who work non-standard hours

Child care for people who work non-standard hours


Looking for high quality child care when and where you need it can be like searching for a needle in a haystack… the challenge is even greater when you work non-standard or extended hours.

The majority of early childhood services operate from 6am-6pm weekdays, however recent figures from the ABS show that the number of people working non-standard hours is rising and more than one in three people work over time, with almost 60 per cent of employees having no say in their start and finish times.

An increasing number of early childhood services offer extended hours care and you can identify these providers on the website by the moon icon next to their listing. This article describes weekend, occasional and extended hours care in more detail.

In 2013 the Australian government implemented a series of flexibility trials, which offered a defined group of family day care and long day care providers the opportunity to offer extended hours, flexible, over night and weekend care arrangements to parents who needed it. The experiment was designed to help shift workers, such as those working in police departments and in hospitals, better balance their family and professional responsibilities.

The trial was cancelled at the beginning of 2014 due to a lack of interest, with parents citing cost and the need for care on an ad-hoc rather than a regular basis as barriers and providers claiming they needed a regular commitment in order to make extended hours care a viable option.

While the trial didn't yield the expected results, extended hours care providers are on the rise and this type of care is becoming easier to find, especially if you live in the city.

What options are available?

Family Day Care – family day care is a quality, home based early childhood education and care service for children aged from six weeks through to 12 years. Many family day care educators are more flexible than long day care centres with their hours of operation and can make special accommodations for families with particular care needs. 

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Long Day Care (with extended hours) – an increasing number of long day care centres are offering extended hours care, (although they are less likely to offer over night care) and is a great option for families with non-standard start and finish times. Remember to look for the moon icon next to their listing when researching your options.

If your service doesn't currently offer extended hours think about approaching them to ask why. It could be that they need a minimum number to make it economically viable. Talking to other families and pinning a notice to canvass support among other parents could help you secure the required numbers.

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Nannies and Au Pairs – a great option for those with odd working hours, if you can arrange a live-in option. The main disadvantage to nannies and au pairs is that you need extra space in your house to accommodate them on a long-term basis and they can be more expensive than group care arrangements.

Search for Nannies or Au Pairs

Babysitters – although some people are now professional babysitters and pretty much operate the same hours and charge the same fees as nannies, babysitters are usually an ad hoc solution to out of hours care. If you have a great babysitter and would like to use their services on a regular basis talk to them about a regular commitment and negotiate a rate of pay which works for both of you.

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Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care – this is a flexible service which provides high quality child care on an occasional or ad hoc basis from as little as one hour to a full day. Parents only pay for the time their children are in care. Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care centres are family grouped and are licensed for children from birth to five years old. A growing number of established long day care are now also offering parents the option to book casual or Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care on an as-needs basis. 

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In Home Care – this is a flexible form of child care which enables families with unusual work, location or care requirements to access approved child care in their own home. It is subsidised and therefore requires families to meet certain eligibility requirements. Families where the parent/s work non-standard hours or do shift work are currently eligible (as long as other criteria are met) so it's definitely worth asking the Department of Human Services if you qualify for in home care if you work shifts.

The Productivity Commission has just handed down its final report which has recommended widening the eligibility for in home care, however, currently In-home care is only available to families that are unable to access standard child care services and/or families in unusual circumstances:

  • Families with a parent or parents with a chronic illness or disability
  • Families with a child or children with a chronic illness or disability
  • Families in rural and remote parts of Australia
  • Families where the parent/s work non-standard hours or do shift work
  • Families which have three or more children under school age
  • Families which have three or more children born at the same time

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Kid share - another option is to network with colleagues and friends in a similar situation and see if you can negotiate an on-going kid share arrangement where you mind each other's children. Although these arrangements take time to negotiate and the logistics can be complicated to implement, they are cost effective and can work very well in the long-term.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 26 August 2019

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